Goodbye Mom

Maria Crosman, sitting at a table listening to someone talk. Listening and engaged.

Earlier this month my mother, Maria Crosman, passed away. Her life came to a peaceful end after a long slow decline. My sister, father, and I were at her side at the end.

It’s hard to know what to include when writing a remembrance of Mom. No one post can really cover it all. So I’m not really trying. In addition to being my mother, mom was a minister, teacher, mentor, pastor, gardener, grandmother, and friend. She could be serious, stern, loving, warm, and funny. When the situation called for it, she could switch between those mode quickly.

At 15 she felt called to ministry, and was immediately told by her pastor that ministry wasn’t for women. Since Quakers had encouraged women to be ministers since our founding, Mom promptly began attending Abington Meeting. She went on to earn Masters and then a Doctorate in Ministry and a recorded Friends minister. Along with my father she served as pastor to two churches. Before finally becoming a teacher and sharing her gifts with her students and colleagues. Over the course of her life she found a multitude of ways to let her life speak.

Trying to tell my mother she wasn’t welcome never got a meek response.

For roughly 40 years her life intersected with those of George School‘s students and the larger community there. Her goal was always to find ways to help the students grow into the best versions of themselves.

My first two years as a student there I ended up with a locker about 8 feet from her office door. She was running the student co-op program at the time. Every student at George School performs basic tasks like cleaning classrooms and serving meals, and her job was to issue those assignments. Mom believed deeply in the program, and in making sure privileged students did their share. I know first hand that not all my peers appreciated the value of that form of learning. But we have heard from former students in recent weeks, and found thank you letters from students, colleagues, and even peers at other schools among her papers, all testifying to the mark she left on those around her.

Some of those students who grumbled about early co-op assignments, appreciated her support when they found themselves needing extra love in a hard moment. I recall vividly an evening a friend of mine recognized another friend in crisis, a quick call and mom returned to campus to set in motion interventions that saved the life a student. She could draw lines and set boundaries that teenagers need in one moment, and open her arms for hugs we needed even more in the next.

As we have heard from friends and former colleagues many people have shared memories about her craft projects, and how she taught them to knit, quilt, bake, garden, and other crafts. For Mom those were all forms of connection.

She baked, mostly with flour that she could not eat, so others would have a treat to enjoy. Our family households are filled with wedding quilts. Knitting projects done during faculty meetings were often presents for others – and the chance to sit and knit with another person was a chance to form or deepen a friendship.

Even after she stopped formally leading congregations mom still found ways to do the work of a pastor as well. She loved performing weddings for friends, family, or even strangers. At Silver Bay she served as summer chaplain, and spent time as interim chaplain at Adirondack Friends Meeting. Never one to stay on the sidelines, she stepped into all kinds of situations from memorial services to medical crises because she saw a need she could fill.

My wife once saw my mother jump into another family’s medical crisis. The doctor was doing a poor job of explaining a scary situation to young parents in an ER. So poorly the father was nearing the point of striking the doctor. Mom inserted herself and managed to calm the father. She validated his fears and reminded him of the importance of stay calm for his child’s sake. She also took the doctor to task for not being clear and supportive and pushed him to help the parents understand. We have no way to know what happened to the child, but in that moment my mother was able to help everyone find next steps.

Having grown up in an often divided family, she sought to find and build connections within the family she built and between us and our community.

Everywhere she went, my mother tried to make friends. Often those friends would find themselves called on the help in crisis. When a student needed more counseling than the school could provide – she called a therapist friend. When a student needed advanced dental work and lacked the means to pay, she called another friend. She’d come home from nearly any place with stories of people she’d met and the interesting things they had taught her.

I miss her. I expect I always will. But I’m happy for the time we had together, and the lessons she was able to teach me. Especially the importance of connections with others.

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